Horror is not normally my genre of choice. As I huddled under the bedcovers in gibbering terror, perversely compelled to keep turning the pages of Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s The Strain, I remembered why.
This is a petrifying book, packed with body horror, gruesome murders and general extreme creepiness. It also works superbly as a thriller; it’s tautly-written and the pages flick past at an impressive speed. There is some supreme badassery here, including UV light bombs and vampires getting decapitated with swords, and some great set-pieces like the dead plane at the beginning of the book or the eclipse in the middle.
The one aspect that disappointed me was, and I apologise for yet again banging the same old drum, the gender roles. All the badasses are male. All the main characters are male. All the characters present at the climax are male. There are only two female characters; one is a damsel distress who is kidnapped and later fridged, and the other was ordered by the men to stay at home and look after the children during the climax. I rolled my eyes pretty hard at that point, especially since that second female character was supposed to be the protagonist’s colleague and equal, her training every bit the match of his. But she’s a girl, so she stays sidelined.
If you can overlook the gender aspect, The Strain is a thoroughly satisfying and enjoyable read which is still giving me the creeps a month later. You may experience sleep deprivation and/or uncontrollable sobbing, is all I’m saying.
Verdict = 4 out of 5 stars. I'll definitely be picking up the sequel.